Banning alcohol onboard is a good thing. It raises safety levels, discussions are avoided about how much is acceptable to drink, and colleagues with alcohol problems are not constantly subjected to temptation. That is how the crew on the Sirius Olympus view the situation.
It is Christmas Day, 2009. By the oil terminal in Berga, just outside central Stockholm, there are wet snowflakes blowing in the wind over the rough sea. Out on the deck Alfredo Carpadosa, able-bodied seaman, is busy unloading. It has been a white Christmas for him, like the others in the crew, in two senses of the term.
– I don’t usually drink very much, so for me it doesn’t make a lot of difference that we are not allowed to drink onboard, he says. We work hard and during time off you can surf on the Internet and send e-mails. I don’t miss alcohol.
Tenderloin steak and water
In the galley kitchen, Katarina Björklund, the cook, is making the mid- afternoon snack. On a stainless steel bench there is a dish full of thick spareribs from yesterday’s Christmas spread, and in the mess there are saffron buns and alcohol-free mulled wine. She doesn’t see any problem in the crew drinking water with the Christmas food and the planned New Year’s menu of lobster and tenderloin steak.
– It’s good for you. Besides, some of the crew can’t handle alcohol and now that we have zero tolerance they don’t need to feel tempted.
Katarina, who previously worked as a cook ashore, is used to her guests choosing stronger drinks with their food. But here on the ship she does not miss that aspect.
– Sometimes we joke that a glass of red wine would be nice with the Saturday dinner, and that may be true. But since we work around the clock and some of the crew eat in 10 minutes before they return to work, drinking wine is just not on.
Consideration towards others
The oil company that Olympus works for allows the crew to drink in moderation. During the off-duty watch, the blood alcohol limit is 0.04% and on duty it is 0.02%. The captain of the Olympus has decided to introduce zero tolerance, however. Ingvar Edvardsson, chief engineer, supports this policy wholeheartedly. For him it is primarily a question of safety.
– There are so few of us onboard that should an accident happen, we must all be able to do our duties. But it is also a matter of consideration towards others. A person with alcohol problems cannot just drink one beer with their meal and stop at that.
There are 11 people in the crew on the tanker ship Olympus and many of them know each other well. Ingvar Edvardsson does not believe that this would tempt anybody to protect a colleague with alcohol problems, however. He is also quite aware that having zero tolerance does not necessarily mean that the ship is completely free of alcohol. It is quite possible to buy bottles ashore and sit in your cabin and drink.
– Of course, you could do it on the quiet, but I don’t think anybody does – at least none of us on-board at the moment. It may be a problem for some people, especially older crewmembers who are used to drinking at sea. But during the last 10 or 20 years, there has been a large change in attitudes. In the past the bosun would fill his bag with tools and four cans of beer before going out to fix something. You wouldn’t see that these days.
No time off
The second mate, Christoffer Guldbrand, is on the bridge sitting in front of the loading controls, managing the unloading. He has been with the shipping company since 2004 and he has nothing against zero tolerance, even during time off.
– We don’t really have any time off when we are onboard. Everybody is included in the safety crew and situations could arise at any time. We all know what applies, and I don’t think an alcoholic would take a job on a ship with zero tolerance.
He believes it is difficult to stay within certain blood alcohol limits.
– On ferries you are allowed to have 0.04%, but how much is that, really? Can you drink one, two or three beers before you are over the limit? When you are not allowed to drink at all, you don’t need that sort of discussion.
The chief mate, Bengt Fahlander, is in the lounge on a sofa watching a film. He also appreciates the clear alcohol policy onboard the ship.
– Here you know what the rules are and I think everybody follows them. We have a small crew and we have such short trips that you would notice if anybody was drinking too much.